When I interview for teachers I often ask “Why did you become a teacher?”; answers range from “I just always did”, or “I love engaging with young people” to “I didn’t know what else to do”; the latter perhaps a less convincing reply.
George Bernard Shaw, in Man and Superman, is unfortunately responsible for the phrase “Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach”. The truth of the matter is not everyone can teach; it is a complex role that requires boundless depths of patience, energy, creativity and knowledge. Unlike many other jobs, teachers take their work home, marking and planning for a continuous spiral that is often taken for granted by those they serve.
The most successful and happiest teachers are those for whom it really is a vocation. They genuinely like being at work, because they get such a kick out getting students to that ‘aha’ moment of understanding. They rejoice in debate with young people and enjoy the learning journey, culminating in that moment of pride at graduation, where each graduate is notably a sum of every teacher that ever contributed.
The most successful and happiest teachers are those for whom it really is a vocation. They genuinely like being at work, because they get such a kick out getting students to that ‘aha’ moment of understanding
These days it is impossible to be a static teacher. Gone are the ‘chalk and talk’ days when you just stood at the front of the class, delivered content and waited for it to be churned out in a written test. We have become student-centred, using a variety of tools and a range of criteria that value communication, knowledge, understanding and reflection. Students present projects and are assessed along the way, not just by the end product, in itself fun for the teacher, as they move from lecturer to facilitator.
The pandemic brought a paradigm shift across the world that forced all educators to step into the 21st century and away from the front of the classroom onto the EdTech platform. This opened doors to asynchronous learning, collaborative break-out rooms and extensive online interactive resources that have moved students away from textbooks. A bonus was the monumental shift in access to professional development for teachers via online courses. You can teach yourself just about anything now, either via a course or on YouTube.
Teachers are naturally life-long learners, craving opportunities for professional growth. As a Middle States Association-accredited school, we are using the ‘sustaining excellence’ protocol, which expects us to work on a shared action research project. We were required to identify an initiative that would impact our school improvement cycle and benefit our students.
This challenge felt quite overwhelming at first: how does one engage 80+ members of staff in a shared research project? We circled around our values and definition of learning, landing on “creating and implementing an inclusive framework to be used throughout the school in every classroom to ensure students at Verdala International School can demonstrate transferable skills, resilience and are well grounded and mindful individuals”. An ambitious statement that allowed us to encompass a range of strands that could be researched and trialled by each of the eight groups made up of teachers, teaching assistants and learning support educators (secondary and elementary). The sub-topics cover concept-based learning, inquiry learning, flexible grouping, peer instruction, differentiated practice, positive discipline, visible thinking routines and exploring diversity, equity and inclusion.
This is a three-year journey, with checkpoints along the way to share our learnings.
Staff worked collaboratively, collecting data, research and talking to experts to eventually put forward strategies that will be piloted in the next academic year. Most importantly, they are documenting the whole process as we hope to run a symposium and share their findings with our parents and local educational community. This is an exciting pedagogical project, and thanks to our teachers’ enthusiasm and dedication our students will be impacted positively by their findings.
There is no doubt that being a teacher comes with huge responsibility; to mould, challenge and inspire young minds by stimulating curiosity, but above all, nurturing self-esteem and the positive part they play wherever they go. As Marian Wright Edelman said: “Education is for improving the lives of others and for leaving your community and world better than you found it”. Thanks to their own efforts to keep learning and adapting, teachers everywhere are doing just that.